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January 06, 2011

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Evan, always enjoy when you highlight a winery/winemaker in this up and personal way. Can you tell me what you mean by "This wine has a high ceiling...?

Antoinette - Sure; it's just my clunky, inarticulate way of saying that I think the wine could develop into something outstanding, relative to its peers. Obviously it's too soon to confidently assess the 2010 wines, but the White Springs 2010 Cabernet Franc is showing the kind of early development that I often see in complex, high quality Finger Lakes cab francs. It has good structure and is already considerably layered. The oak that Derek mentioned is something to watch, but as long as it integrates smoothly, the wine has potential to be wonderful.

Derek is one of those relatively rare people who is well-versed in both winemaking and viticulture. I always learn something from when I run into him when I stop by their vineyard. He has a very practical take on what happens in the vineyard (and I assume the winery), that the things that they do should have some kind of real, tangible purpose - like his preference for mechanical harvesting. It's not just that it's easier from a labor standpoint - for him, it has important winemaking implications.

Great choice of somebody to profile, Evan!

Evan- Very nice profile. I totally agree with Derek about Finger Lakes Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Cabernet Franc. It's (at least) a minority of two.

Ian -

Two things.

1) I'm overdue to come spend some time with you, if you'll have me!

2) Derek and I talked a bit about Cab Sauv versus Cab Franc, but I'd love for you to elaborate. It's always helpful when winemakers explain thoughts on ripening, choosing which varieties to work with, etc.

Based on my tastings at various Finger Lakes wineries, I have to say that I'm with Evan in thinking that Cab Franc will more consistenly develop. I've tasted a lot more great FLX Cab Franc than Cab Sauv. That being said, I look forward to visiting White Springs to see what happens when a winemaker believes so much in his Cab Sauv. It's a varietal that doesn't seem as well-suited to the climate here, generally speaking, but I've really enjoyed some of it.
I would be very curious to know what others consider to be top-notch FLX Cab Sauv, since it tends to get less coverage. My vote goes to Shaw 2005, which edges out Dr. Frank 2005 in my mind. I also liked Damiani's 2007 offering quite a bit.

Ryan,

I agree with your comments on the Shaw and Damiani - both outstanding wines!

Great article Evan, very nicely covered.

Ryan, I think you've hit many of the high-notes as far as Finger Lakes cab sauv goes, especially the Shaw and the Damiani. I also seem to remember once tasting one from Hazlitt that I liked.

I will admit, however, to being stunned that two winemakers I have a great deal of respect for favor cab sauv over cab franc for the Finger Lakes. Especially because I've enjoyed Ian's cab franc in the past.

I know we have a lot of winemakers to read the site, so hopefully they'll chime in with their opinions.

Evan- Of course. You're welcome any time.

Lenn and Evan- Don't get me wrong...I'm not hating on Cab. Franc, merely stating a preference for Cab. Sauv. There are some wonderful Cab Francs here done in a range of styles. I just find Cabernet Sauvignon generally more pleasant, less vegetal, and more fruit forward...and in warm years, truly special. Even in a cool year, it might be thin but it still has an elegance to it

Anyway...I don't want to hijack this discussion thread with my own solipsistic diatribe, but I'd be happy to discuss the next time I see either of you :)

I have been a believer that the Finger Lakes is a great place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon for many years now. I think Derek is right about Cab Sauv achieving desired varietal character first in most years. Brix levels being less important than one might expect. While I am not as concerned as some about rigid training systems, I think both Cab Franc and Cab Sauv fruit can usually reach great heights in quality here. There are many good Finger Lakes growers who would probably agree. For me, the winter/spring weather extremes are really the only thing I can not do anything about when it comes to producing good quality fruit year after year.

Ian: Is this more a personal taste preference, a preference for what to work with, for what to sell, or what you think really simply grows better?

It's interesting to hear that people think CS has potential -- but not stunning. The surprising thing for me is that there are apparently people who think CS has more potential than CF!

Is there even that much CS grown in the FLX? Sure isn't something I'd plant if I were putting in a vineyard today. Pretty far down my list.

I can't make myself have a strong opinion on the CS vs. CF issue, because each year seems to bring a different set of circumstances. But we are tasting our 2009 Bordeaux varieties wines right now, and the CS is edging out the CF by a whisker, and the Merlot by a larger margin.

However, in really lean years here, the Cabernet Sauvignons are almost a parody of a red wine, while the CFs do fine.

Both grapes have potential. One of the best NY CS I have tasted came from a Hazlitt vineyard and made at the time by Thomas Henick Kling at the Geneva lab. There are also new ENTAV/INRA clones of CS which are very exciting and are doing extremely well on LI.

The concern about cab had always been whether the season is long enough or the heat accumulation sufficient to achieve the minimum ripeness needed to burn the pyrazines and eliminate the green bean flavor. With what we have learned about early leaf removal and with the rising global temperatures there is definitely a future for CS in NY. We can achieve great quality without getting above 14% abv.

We have ENTAV/INRA clones of both CS and CF planted, and the clones we have yield dark berry flavors and deep color. I find that each grape has its strength and use those strengths in blending. Typically, the CF has more complexity and great mouthfeel, while the CS has more tannin, color and stronger cassis flavors. I think the future for NY red wine involves blends, which give us much more latitude in creating great wines in a climate that varies so much from year to year.

Making great wine is one thing, selling it is another.

NY probably needs a different approach than California took in the 60's with the introduction of varietal wines. What California has done for wine consumers is associated the varietals with flavor profiles for grapes grown in California. A brilliant move in retrospect, but I am sure at the time it was controversial. NY reds just don't taste like California, and they shouldn't. NY reds are every bit as good, but have a different flavor profile (more like France than California). Naming them like California does with varietal names sets up an expectation for flavor that won't be met. It might be useful to have a name for a cool climate dry red blend that we could all use to identify the NY style. My preference for wine with food is the "NY style" red. Lower in alcohol with structure, complexity and subtleties you won't find in a hot climate red.

I tend to prefer the Cab Francs because I find them more interesting in general with a complexity and depth of flavor that I don't get as much with CS. With that said I have had a couple that I really enjoyed. Like Ryan mentioned above Dr. Franks, Shaw and Damiani all have put together some great wines, I've also enjoyed a lot of Sheldrake's CS and I believe that one of my favorite FL reds, Ravines 2007 Meritage has a high percentage of CS. I have yet to try White Springs and look forward to stopping by this spring.

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